Said to be built over the home of John the Baptist's parents, the Church of the Visitation stands high up on the hillside of Ein Kerem in Jerusalem. From here there is a wonderful view of the valley and the surrounding wooded hills.
In the Bible
In Luke 1, the pregnant Mary visited her pregnant cousin Elizabeth and stayed for three months (Lk 1:56). Upon Mary's arrival, the unborn John the Baptist recognized the unborn Jesus and "leaped with joy" in Elizabeth's womb (Lk 1:44).
Elizabeth exclaimed, "Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!" and Mary sang a hymn of thanksgiving known as the Magnificat:
This event is the "Visitation" commemorated by the present church, which is believed to stand over the site where the event took place.
History of the Church of the Visitation
The present Church of the Visitation incorporates a natural grotto that once contained a small spring. The grotto became a place of worship in the Byzantine period, and the Crusaders built a large, two-storey church over it. The church collapsed after the Crusaders left.
In 1679, the site was bought by the Franciscans. After two centuries, they finally managed to get permission from the Ottoman authorities to restore the church. The Lower Church was restored in 1862 and the Upper Church was completed in 1955.
What to See at the Church of the Visitation
Ein Kerem is a quiet village 7km southwest of the Old City. Formerly Palestinian, the village's stone houses are now filled primarily with Jewish artists and sculptors. The area has several galleries and a number of good restaurants.
The Church of the Visitation is reached by steps up from the main road through the village. In the church courtyard, one wall is covered with ceramic tiles bearing the words of the Magnificat in 42 languages.
Designed by Antonio Barluzzi, the upper church has a Tuscan-style painted ceiling and large murals depicting the titles with which Mary has been endowed — Mother of God, Refuge of Sinners, Dispenser of All Grace, Help of Christians — and the Immaculate Conception. The lower church is decorated with large frescoes of other Hebrew women of the Bible known for their "hymns and canticles."
Down the hill from church, a small mosque marks the site of the Spring of the Virgin, for which Ein Kerem ("spring of the vineyard") is named. Nowadays, the spring is used to irrigate crops.
Quick Facts on the Church of the Visitation
|Names:||Church of the Visitation|
|Categories:||churches; biblical sites|
|Visitor and Contact Information|
|Coordinates:||31.764488° N, 35.157698° E|
|Lodging:||View hotels near the Church of the Visitation|
Map of the Church of the Visitation, Jerusalem
Below is a location map and aerial view of the Church of the Visitation. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.